Sports Out West

Chargers begin ‘process’ in preseason loss to Seahawks

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO - Dwight Freeney has been around the NFL block a few times. The San Diego Chargers linebacker is entering his 12th professional season.

Thus, he speaks from experience when he says the Chargers’ 31-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 preseason opener is not indicative of the campaign to come.

“This is a process,” Freeney said. “In Indianapolis, we won something like five [preseason] games in 10 years,”

Freeney played for Colts teams that won a combined 109 games from 2002 through 2010, and appeared in the playoffs every season.

“This is a time to get better, and to pick up the scheme,” he said.

First year Chargers head coach Mike McCoy played his starters sparingly, as is expected in a Preseason Week 1 contest. San Diego’s first string defense played two Seahawk possessions, neither of which yielded points.

Freeney led an impressive performance from the starting front seven, which applied frequent pressure to Seattle’s second year quarterback, Russell Wilson.

Among San Diego’s defensive starters was rookie inside linebacker Manti Te’o. The 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist from Notre Dame was welcomed into Qualcomm Stadium with some of the loudest cheers the home crowd gave any Charger.

Te’o’s first play was unceremonious. He was drawn toward the line on a well-sold play action fake by Wilson, who rolled out and hit wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 20-yard gain.

But the rookie Te’o settled in subsequently to help the first string defense shut down the Seahawks. Te’o said Thursday was a welcomed warm-up for his pro career.

“I understand my role,” he said. “I’ll do it, whether it’s one series or two series [staying on the field]…I’m grateful for the time I did have, just breaking myself into this whole NFL football.”

The first string offense spent just one series on the field, but it was productive. The Chargers went 74 yards in 13 plays and 7:25, culminating in Nick Novak‘s 28-yard field goal.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was comfortable playing behind a revamped offensive line. He completed five of six attempts for 45 yards. Each completion went to a different Charger receiver.

His night ended on a third down scamper of five yards, which was just shy of converting a first down. McCoy went for a fourth down conversion earlier on the night, converted on Ryan Mathews‘ Superman leap over the line. But one fourth down attempt proved to be enough for the preseason opener.

“If we go three and out, you can’t make too much of that,” Rivers said. “But, we got some positives from [the opening drive].”

One such positive was the time Rivers was afforded on pass plays. Off-season acquisition King Dunlap told Chargers.com earlier in the week he relished the opportunity to prove his worthiness for the starting left tackle role. Dunlap made good on the chance, protecting Rivers’ blind side throughout the initial drive.

Rivers had high praise for the front five.

“The [20-yard pass] to [tight end Antonio] Gates actually…I had a lot of time to just scan the field on that,” he said. “Communication was good. Nick [Hardwick] was out there directing traffic. All [the offensive linemen] were on the same page. D.J. [Fluker] is out there having a good time.”

The flood gates opened in the second half, after both teams went deep into their benches. Third string Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw a pair of touchdowns late: the first, a well-placed 42-yard heave to wide receiver Stephen Williams, and the second a short red zone flick to running back Derrick Coleman.

San Diego’s third string quarterback, rookie Brad Sorensen, was sharp in his professional debut. He went 7-10 for 84 yards and scored the lone Charger touchdown of the night, connecting with Ladarius Green on a 21-yard strike.

Sorensen came on after Charlie Whitehurst saw considerable playing time. Whitehurst completed seven-of-fifteen attempts 59 yards and was intercepted twice. His second came on a laser that caromed off rookie wide out Keenan Allen’s hands on a diving effort.

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

 

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Kyle Kensing

Kyle Kensing is the editor and founder of SaturdayBlitz.com, and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. His credits include CBS Sports, ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports, and is a columnist on the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.